How to fit STEM enrichment curriculum into your school in additional to your core classroom curriculum
As a school administrator, you recognize the importance of early exposure and consistent education in the subjects of STEM. Even so, you might still be wondering, “How am I going to fit STEM curriculum into an already packed day?”
It’s no simple endeavor to incorporate an entirely new curriculum across multiple grade levels (if you need help, we’d be happy to assist). It’s usually not a short process, either.
That’s where STEM as an enrichment offering can help you close the gap and provide quality STEM instruction to your students in addition to your core curriculum. STEM as an enrichment program serves as a supplemental elective that supports core curriculum once it’s in place.
In this article, you’ll find:
- What STEM enrichment is (and what it isn’t)
- Considerations for incorporating STEM enrichment programs
- Ideas for STEM enrichment activities
What is STEM Enrichment?
STEM enrichment includes a wide variety of extracurricular, or elective, activities offered to students to help them practice and grow their fluencies in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
When you’re a school administrator, incorporating an entirely new multi-grade curriculum can take time and funding that might not be available to you right away. It can also take convincing other decision makers and district administrators to vett and approve your suggestions.
Rather than waiting to give your students access to valuable STEM education, it might be easiest to start by incorporating STEM with your extracurricular curriculum in order to reach students of varying grade levels quickly and effectively.
These kinds of STEM Enrichment activities can include exploring engineering concepts, applied mathematics, as well as offering robotic and coding classes.
These activities are designed to work alongside your core curriculum and create engaging experiences for students to participate and practice their skills in the sciences. Providing an opportunity to connect with and develop a science identity provides a path for sustained interest in science and science related fields. Offering a STEM curriculum like Kid Spark’s – can help propel your students to new levels via compounding curricula across grade levels.
STEM as an Enrichment course vs. STEM as a core Curriculum
While both STEM Enrichment and STEM Curriculum play important roles in the STEM ecosystem, there are some differences worth noting when considering incorporating both or either into your school system.
Extra-Curricular: The biggest difference between STEM enrichment and STEM curriculum are in the roles, themselves. STEM enrichment includes a variety of activities, events, and engagements with STEM outside the curriculum and the traditional classroom setting.
Personnel: STEM curriculum is taught by classroom educators and incorporated into their lesson plans. These lessons might include guest speakers or appearances from others, but the core of the education is coming directly from the traditional role of the teacher.
In STEM enrichment activities, the personnel is dynamic. A program can be run by a librarian, school volunteer, or local community organization. Or the science fair judges can include local STEM professionals, higher level STEM educators, or administrators like yourself!
This further builds the local STEM ecosystem and gives students access to even more ideas, concepts, and connections to the world of STEM.
Structure: While STEM curriculum is designed to introduce concepts, and give students the ability to practice those new concepts and skills through exercises and creative play, STEM enrichment helps connect these concepts to the world outside of the classroom by providing more unstructured access to STEM concepts.
Considerations for STEM Enrichment: Timing, Access, and Participation
STEM enrichment is best integrated when timing, access and participation are considered for every student.
The extracurricular activities of STEM enrichment can (and should) take place in a variety of times so that all students have access to these enriching opportunities. Be sure to include options during school hours for any students who may not have the transportation, or other means to participate in before or after school programs. Some enrichment activities that can take place during school hours include science fairs, assemblies, field trips, and school-wide events (like a science-themed field day).
Providing equitable access to STEM enrichment programs allows every student to receive the positive benefits and opportunities made available through STEM. Not only does the time of these elective activities matter, but so do any funding requirements or supply requirements.
To make sure all students can participate equally, it’s helpful to have discrete sponsorships or “tool pools” where students combine their contributions of materials to be shared with everyone and no one feels singled out.
Especially when you are just getting started in incorporating a school-wide STEM curriculum program, the diversity of skill levels between students can isolate some students from participating. Work to create activities and events where students can participate regardless of their current STEM fluency or familiarity. Look for programs that offer a progression of learning.
Here are some ideas for STEM enrichment activities to bring to your school as either an essential component of transitioning curriculum, or as an elective support to your existing classroom studies.
- Science Fairs: Science fairs are a great way to incorporate the student body into a school-wide STEM event while giving students a lot of flexibility to pursue areas they’re interested in. (*note: to support equitable access in your school, consider offering during-school hours to work on science fair projects as well)
- School Assemblies: Invite guest speakers or lecturers to speak with students about STEM’s relationship to the real world; show new STEM-related films and discuss them; or host interactive school-wide assemblies where students can practice their STEM skills through various engaging activities.
- Field Trips: In addition to standard field trip destinations like museums and zoos, consider taking students to places where they can see STEM and its innovations in action like factories, companies, shipping ports, dams, or exciting engineering structures.
- Morning / After School Programs: These extracurricular programs play a big role in contributing to academic achievement for students. In fact, we’ve written all about it here.
- Contests & Competitions: Math competitions, egg drop contests, and building competitions can be fun and immersive experiences for students to flex their creativity. Again, be sure to keep timing, access, and participation all in mind to make this an enjoyable activity for all student levels.
- School-Wide Activities: In addition to assemblies, science fairs, contests and competitions, STEM-related school-wide activities are a great way to keep students excited about STEM. Ideas might include STEM-themed field days, scavenger hunts, or competitions between classrooms.
Bringing STEM to Your School
Whether in the form of STEM as an enrichment class, or formal classroom curriculum, Kid Spark Education has solutions for elementary and middle school students to develop their STEM fluency through engaging multi-lesson programs.
If you’d like to learn more about our programs, you’ll find them here.
We also believe in providing early and consistent access to STEM for students of all backgrounds and abilities. If you’re interested in learning more about our STEM Equity Grants Program, you can request an information packet here.